New Year, New Beginnings

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A few years ago, someone said to me, “I choose a new word to carry with me through the new year.”

So I thought I’d try it. It started with “Introspection” in 2016. And that continued into 2017. Not because I hadn’t done enough the first year, but because our lives changed so much in the last few years, and we continued to face challenges in 2017. Challenges that really tested us. Our strength, our perseverance, our faith.

Like many, we are concerned about the deepening divide in our country, and what that means for our future and the future for our sons. But at times, political issues were almost a welcome distraction from what was happening in our personal lives.

I have continued to struggle with my health, living with an illness we have chosen to call “Moriarty”. I refuse to own it, to call it ‘my’ illness, or ‘my’ diagnosis. So it needed a name, a proper villain name. Something bookish for this bibliophile, something clever and cunning; not one that fights with brute strength, but really gets into your head. What better adversary that Sherlock Holmes’ arch nemesis?

Along with physical issues, I have also dealt with mental health issues, some as a result of living with chronic illness, but also dealing with PTSD triggers. All while having to move out of one rental into another. But what a blessing! I believe we hit the landlord jackpot with this one! Quick to take care of things, and very kind. And gave us flowers for a housewarming gift!

We also suffered loss in 2017. Our sweet Sissy Kitty became ill, and despite my best efforts, we lost her. She was the first pet we had adopted into our family as a couple, and the first pet my children have ever had. And the first time we had to make ‘the decision’. Ugh. If you have ever had to deal with a seriously ill pet, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Much greater loss for us was that of my dear parents-in-love. Watching their health decline so quickly, and from so far away (we live in the Midwest, all of the family is in the NW), was heart wrenching. We lost my Honey’s mom in February, his father in July, a week after our move. I continue to walk with my husband through this loss, through the recent holidays and their 41st anniversary yesterday (they were married on New Years Eve! How awesome is that?) The idea that we are starting a new year without loved ones that started last year with us feels unreal. We miss them so much, and I am so thankful to them for raising the wonderful man I married.

Through all this, all we walked through, we learned a lot about ourselves and our family. But now it’s 2018 and it’s time for a new word: Healing.

Yes, some of this is driven by my desire for more energy and less pain. But it is more than that. It’s also a desire to see the beginning of healing of our divided country. To see peace in the city I live in. And to see growth in the people serve and love.

And with this new year, also comes a renewing of this blog. It will still include stories of my own adventure, with maybe a bit of humor sprinkled here and there, and hopefully insights that will touch someones heart. But I’m also looking to include more. We have taken on the honor of homeschooling three of our sons, so we will see a bit of that journey. Health will definitely be a frequent subject. Next week is the beginning of an ‘elimination’ diet to find sensitivities and maybe reset our health a little. You’ll all get a peek into the good, the bad, and the ugly of that ride. Maybe I’ll share books I’ve read (so many good books!), maybe tell you about a new gadget I can’t live without. And of course, I will include some of my art, because I live to create!

I would like to say I have a ‘schedule’, like health on Tuesdays, and reviews on Fridays. And I kind of do, or at least had the intention. But adventure is rarely so regimented. Neither am I. So this blog will reflect who I am. It will be a free-spirited, free-flowing, quirky, bright, bold, earthy, real adventure.

See you soon!

 

 

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Sorry, Not Sorry

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Me at 5

Laughing has always been my thing.

I had a good laugh this afternoon. At my own expense. Actually, I think I’m a pretty funny person. But definitely more in the slapstick humor than witty, stand-up comedian way. I once opened a door into my own face. Then there was this mid-air flip to avoid landing on my rear while using roller-blades. Remember those? Yeah, I’m pretty sure even without falling it looked rather humorous. And then there was the time I managed to slap myself in the face with cheese. I’m still not sure what was going on there. And, yes, this was all completely sober. And, yes, I laughed at each of these and many more. If I didn’t laugh at myself, I would miss a lot of opportunities. And it is the best medicine.

Back to this afternoon. I was leaving the doctor’s office needing to turn left from a side street without a traffic signal onto a four lane road. That is often somewhat busy, but “small-town busy”. As I came up to the stop, there was the perfect opening. Yay! But as is common during Midwest winters, there was a bit of an icy patch under me. My wheels spun for a moment and then caught, startling me a little and as I sailed into my left turn I hollered “Woohoo!” and laughed. (Besides laughing at myself, I’m apparently also easily entertained).

And then I said, “Sorry.”

Did I mention I was by myself?

Who was I apologizing to?

What was I apologizing for?

And I laughed. And the more I thought about it, the more I laughed. Loud and bold, because that’s my style. Was I apologizing to myself for being myself? Hahahaha! Am I so used to apologizing for my loud self that it’s a reflex? Hahahahaha!

I know I’m not the only one. There are so many of us who apologize for everything (“I’m sorry, but…”), use qualifiers in our speech (In response to compliment: “But I have wrinkles/bags/back fat”), or undermining ourselves (“Did I make sense?” I do this ALL the time!). Or ending every sentence like a raise in tone like asking a question, like you’re not quite sure of what you are saying. Please don’t do that.

Don’t apologize for asking for what you need. Say “Thank you” to compliments. Say what you need to say with confidence.

And stop apologizing for being yourself. You are a unique and beautiful creation. You have strengths and gifts. You are made lovingly to be exactly who you are, to do exactly what you need to do. So raise you head high, adjust your crown, and walk with confidence. You are loved.

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Live Every Breath!

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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This is what I live with. Also called myalgic encephalomyalitis, ME for short.

 

exhausted

Chronic Fatigue.

What a silly name. It’s so much more than fatigue. More than being tired. People say, “Oh, I get that. I am so tired today.” No. Don’t say that. Unless you have this, you have NO idea.

Muscle aches and fatigue, sore throat, headaches, brain fog.

Like having the flu. ALL THE TIME. You know what that is, the flu. When you ache and chill, and just can’t seem to get comfortable? Yeah, that’s it. But sometimes it’s worse. One my worst days I can barely walk. I get winded walking to the bathroom down the hall. Standing in the shower? Forget about it.

If I’m a little better (IF!), I might get out of the house. And use a scooter on a short trip to the grocery store, taking several stops to rest because my arms are fatigued from using the controls, or I’m out of breath from just sitting up. And mine seems to me to be a milder form than some.

Then I have a good day and clean the kitchen and reorganize the pantry (Monday)

And after I pay for it (Tuesday and Wednesday).

Another name, that hasn’t quite caught on, is systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID). Basically this means, if I over-exert myself, and depending how I’m doing that line can change, I will suffer from what is called Post-exertional malaise. It sucks. And takes me to those aforementioned bad days.

So it has taken some things from me. My energy, my career, much of my social life (as it was), sometimes my ability to be articulate. I am a different parent to my 10yo than I was to my 20yo. Less energy means less time outside with him, less activity. No running around outside with him. Though sometimes, if I’m feeling okay, I might do some of things anyway, because it’s totally worth the crash that comes later.

So we gave it a villains name: Moriarty. Not a dumb, muscle-head villain that fights with brute force. A clever, manipulative villain that gets into your head. I needed a worthy adversary.

But as much a Moriarty has taken from me, he has also given me gifts.

Priorities. If I choose to spend my time on something, it’s because it is important to me. Limited energy has given me pause to evaluate my life and weed out anything superfluous. It’s a chance to slow down and soak up what I love. What freedom!

This includes culling items from my home that are either not useful, or are not absolutely loved. And I love art, so I have begun filling the walls with my own pieces, rather than stuff I find at thrift stores and garage sales (though you can find canvas at these places and paint over).

Compassion. Not something that has been particularly lacking in my life before, I tend to be an empath, but I am certainly understanding chronic illness more!

Delegation. Oh, this one is soooo hard for me. I like to be independent. I like to do things on my own! But, alas, I cannot always do this. So I have learned to delegate chores and activities about the house to my five strong sons. Future daughters-in-love will hopefully love this.

Humility. With delegation comes humility. Asking for help. Accepting help.

Freedom. From worrying about others opinions. I’m nearing the end of my shopping trip, standing in the check-out line and I’m out of breath, being vertical is hard, and I’m regretting not grabbing a scooter. So I sit down on the floor. Right there next to my cart. It’s only maybe 30 seconds, not as much as I need, but it gets me through the line and out of the store. Who cares what people think? I do what I need to do. And often what I want to do–clothes, makeup, art, wrapping my head in colorful scarves, praying before meals at the restaurant.

Yes, ME/CFS is hard to live with, but live I will. None of us has the promise of a next day, hour, minute, breath. So I’m going to take each and every one of those breaths, not matter how hard they are to take sometimes, and fill them up with life!

Take care of yourself…

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Friends, sometimes parenting is hard. I’m not talking emotional here. I’m not talking about children doing things so against your values it hurts. I’m talking physically here. And probably a bit mentally. I am freaking exhausted today. We started the Whole30 Challenge on Friday. Sooooo much cooking. And chopping. And blending. Begging the 10yo to at least try the food put in front of him, and then explaining that he is cranky because he isn’t eating the food. (Seriously, last week he LIKED eggs!) Not to mention the game of Tetris I played with my fridge.

tetris

And today was the first day back to school with the boys. I homeschool the three youngest–older elementary, middle school, and high school. We have our good days, and we have our tough days, and we have the days mom realizes she forgot to transfer the new term into the calendar. Oops. Guess I have work to do tonight.

And laundry to fold.

And my own bedroom to clean.

(And then computer freezes up in the middle of typing up this post!)

But I’m not doing all of that tonight, except maybe transferring this week’s curriculum to the calendar.

Because I need to take care of myself.

So I’m going to curl up in my pajamas, with a cup of camomile tea, and watch some comedy.

What do you do to take care of yourself?

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Dreams and Gifts

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Last night I had a dream about my family-in-love. We were gathered around with my Honey’s siblings, opening gifts we found left by his parents to us. It was a sad dream, as even my unconscious self is aware that we lost his mother in February and his father in July. We were all crying and laughing and wondering at meaning of all these interesting little collections of objects they had deliberately left each of us.

I woke up feeling sad, missing these two people who have had such an impact on my life. Then I started contemplating the very real gifts they have given me.

Their love. I remember the first time I called my father-in-love ‘Dad’. He grinned and told mom, “She called me Dad.” Growing up, I remember hearing my mom call her mother-in-love, ‘mom’, so this is the way things are supposed to go, right? I was part of the family now, and that makes them parents to me through my Honey.

Their unwavering support. Our marriage has not always been as strong as it is now. We actually separated for six months about 10 years ago. Even during that time, they spoke kindly to me, and supported us as we worked on ourselves and our marriage.

A warm welcome (and delicious food!) every time we visited. Their home was always a cozy place where I could relax.

Sons who love to cook! “What? Don’t you two do that?” Okay, yes, but follow my logic: my Honey’s dad loved to cook, and he was very good at it. So my Honey grew up loving to cook, and he is quite good at it as well (better than me, according to the boys). So all five of our boys have grown up wanting to cook, learning to cook, and are learning some great skills. My future daughters-in-love will thank us.

My Honey. I saved the best for last. They raised him to be a hard worker, loyal, and kind. And their genes worked together to make a pretty good lookin’ guy!  He is a wonderful, involved father to our sons, and a loving, supportive husband to me.

I am forever grateful for these wonderful gifts they have given me.

We love you and miss you, Mom and Dad.

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Health Focus: What to expect

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As I mentioned on the first post of the year, I’m hoping to do some focusing on different areas. One of those is health. What will we look at?

Physical Health:

Some of this will be about dealing with chronic illness, due to my lived experience. I will touch on that in another post. Other weeks will be about subjects which come up in the news or questions readers have.

Mental Health:

This subject comes up also because of my own lived experience with anxiety, depression and ADHD. Mental health is something very important to me and I have the wonderful privilege of volunteering alongside other great individuals in my local NAMI affiliate.

Exercise:

So, I admit we won’t visit this much, but when we do, it will be about fun activities. Confession: I failed PE 1 1/2 times. I was a junior in freshman PE. My adventures happen in the pages of a book or on a canvas, not on the court. Pretty much the only things to get me to move is a hike in nature or dancing.

Nutrition:

Food, glorious food! We are foodies (isn’t everyone?). We’ll share some fun recipes, the science of nutrition, and, for a few weeks, my family’s journey on Whole30. We’re looking at resetting our bodies, changing our relationships with food, and hopefully seeing some improvement in health issues in our home (more energy and less pain, pleeeeeease!).

Is Nothing Sacred? Oversharing in the Age of Social Media

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What you are eating, and with whom. What you are watching, and with whom. Where you are, and with whom. Why you’re angry, and with whom. What you are doing, going, feeling. Funny things your kids say. Funny things you say. Your views on politics, religion, fads, celebrities. And pictures to document everything.

mango

The best way to eat mango. Cayenne, salt, just missing a little lime.

And I am sooooo guilty of this.

“Hi, my name is Amee and I am a share-aholic.”

This is where you all say, “Hello, Amee.”

And to be completely honest, this didn’t start with Facebook. I’ve always been an overshare-er. Apparently, when I was of preschool age, I told everyone everything. My name, my mom’s name, my dad’s name, my baby brother’s name, my address! (Sorry, Mom!) As an adult I share my life story with anyone who will listen. All the while, a little voice in my head is going, “What are you doing? Shut-up! Why are you saying this? They don’t need to know this. They don’t WANT to know this!”

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19

This must be my favorite verse in the entire Christmas story.

Think about this for a moment, or rather, ponder it.

Ponder. “to estimate the worth of,” from Old French ponderer “to weigh, poise” from Latin ponderare “ponder, consider, reflect,” literally “to weigh,” from pondus “weight”.

To contemplate, consider, reflect upon, meditate on, cogitate on, dwell on, turn over in one’s mind.

“[She]…pondered them in her heart.”

April ’16, C had his first concert experience. He had purchased his own ticket with his Christmas money in late January, then counted down the next three months until The Newsboys came to town. He was so excited, and so was I. Having been a fan for many years, I am thrilled to share this with my son. While it was a little rough, even with earplugs, for someone with various sensitivities, especially auditory, he stuck through the entire thing, waiting for his favorite song. Wouldn’t you know it! It was the very last song of the encore! And I do have one blurry picture. But then I put the phone away, and just watched. People are standing and cheering. But I’m just sitting in my seat watching C standing and singing at the top of his lungs. And I treasured it all up. All the feelings and sights. Pondering what this experience was like for him.

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Singing his heart out!

How often do we do this? Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat (and whatever else is out there)–all evidence that we live our lives behind the lens of a camera. And I am SO guilty of this! How often do we put away the camera, the phone, the tablet, and just enjoy life through the lens of our own senses? Listen to the ocean in real life, not through a screen. Slowly taste and enjoy delicious flavors, without first showing it off to the world. Touch that soft kitten (okay, cat videos are so fun). Inhale the fresh breeze on a crisp autumn afternoon. And watch life with your own eyes.

Though I walk through the valley…

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Bear with me here. I’m processing stuff.

Life kinda sucks.

I’m learning this. As I journey into the world of fibro-myalgia, I have some days when I am ready to learn all I can and try anything and everything to get better. Other days, I feel hopeless. “Is this what the rest of my life will feel like? Well thpppppbbbtttt!”

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Then I heard this the other day. It wasn’t even directed at me, just a random meme on the internets. “Everything happens for a reason.”

This one goes right in my round file, next to “G-d doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” I don’t know who first said that, but I call shenanigans. Where’s the glory in that?

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:9a

“I am weak, but He is strong.”

Telling someone they can, and should, handle everything that comes their way is cruel. It heaps on guilt and doubt, about their strength and about their faith.

Also, telling someone that everything happens for a reason. Equally cruel. I’m not saying some, or many, things don’t happen for a reason. The Bible is full of this. Banishment from the Garden, the Flood, Tower of Babel, wandering in the desert for 40 years!

But in some times, or many times, we will never know the reason. Questioning and searching for reasons can be torture as one tries to figure out what possibly they have done wrong and how to make it right.

I’m also not saying good things don’t come out of pain. How about being sold off by your brothers, being falsely accused and spending time in prison, then rising up and saving your entire family and your people? But would telling Joseph when he lay in that cistern made him feel better? “Don’t worry. There’s a reason for this, besides the fact that your brothers all seriously dislike you and some hate you.”

This world is full of pain and grief. Diseases that cripple and destroy, natural disasters that take all you have, people with evil intentions stealing your possessions, your security, your innocence, maybe your life.

Why? I don’t know.

What I do know is that we are not alone. We are never alone. Even in the darkest times, He is with us.

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

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SQUIRREL!

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Squirrel!

Squirrel!

Now that I have your attention…

Whoa. This has been a rough couple of months.

I’ve been dealing with some unexplained pain over the last few years, which now has been diagnosed as fibro-myalgia. Which I think must be Greek for “body hurts”. And I have to be honest. It sucks. On a side note, don’t look up ‘ouch’ in Google Images unless you have a very strong stomach.

I tried to not have it. Any time I would be extra sore, or extra tired, or extra what-the-poop-is-wrong-with-me, and start worrying, I would think, “Nope. Not gonna happen!’

Mom's artwork

Mom’s artwork

My mom has been dealing with fibro-myalgia for around 20 years. And she rocks it! She has owned and ran a tea house with a friend, she spends time with her grand babies, she is a very talented actress in local theater, and creates stunning works of art called ‘quilts’. And, during the week, she is the revered ‘keeper of the records’ at one of the best pediatric practices in all the land. (That’s for Dr. Gorilla)

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For the most part, I dealt okay with things for a few years. Though I probably complained way too much. It’s one of my flaws. Being a whiny wimp.

But after going back to work last year, things started to go downhill. I was hoping a summer off would make it all better and I would start the school year off with all my life points. But, alas, I did not collect enough life packs. Can you tell I have kids who play video games?

health-pack

The school year begins and the pain starts getting worse and I am exhausted.

Then my beloved Papa passes away, back home, half a country away from me.

Then Mom and Dad visit, which is definitely a good thing, but I pass on wonderful germs and Dad gets really sick.

All of these stresses help produce a re-emergence of depression symptoms. So I go to my doctor and get to switch medications, which is a physical and emotional carnival ride of it’s own.

(Mental health soap box: There are often very strong views on both sides of the medication for mental illness argument. Some people use it, some people do not. Always communicate with your doctor on these issues. He or she will weigh the benefits and costs with you and help you make the best choice for you. And never stop taking medication without talking to your doctor first. Mental health issues, from mild to severe, can be very upsetting. After all, the mind is the control center of the body! But it is still part of the body and can sometimes be hurt of sick, just like any other part. 1 in 4 people will suffer from mental illness at some point in their lives. Take care of your whole body, mind too!)

Now, here I am today, the middle of October, unable to be in the classroom, and applying for temporary disability.

I feel like a rug has been pulled out from under me.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been down here, on the floor. I never really stay for long. There is so much to do! I can’t be down! There are classrooms to manage, boys to wrangle, a house to clean, and more volunteer opportunities than you can count! So up I go, sometimes slowly, with a little limp, and maybe a groan. But I have. to. keep. moving.

Not this time. I need to be down for a bit. And it’s possible my health has me in a sort of a headlock, pinning me down and shouting “It’s time for a time-out!”

flowers and grass

Whatever the reason, I am here and things look a little different from down here. And it’s not so bad. There are flowers here, close enough to smell. While I’m here I can look up and see the shapes in the clouds, I can feel the grass, I can hear so much. Actually, it’s so quiet, I might actually be able to hear my body, and I think it’s telling me to slow down. Hmm, I wonder how long it’s been saying that?  I want so much to live my life with intention and awareness. Is it possible I haven’t been aware of a darn thing?

One of the cool things about having ADD is how much you notice. Everything distracts me, so I often notice little things others may not; small flowers, a rabbit nibbling on the weeds, SQUIRREL!

Is it possible I’ve been so distracted by everything going on me, I have tuned out a very important person? I am always here, always with myself. So why haven’t I been listening TO myself? I’m sure I would take it as a great compliment, I love to talk.

I think I’ll listen right now, and have a power nap. Who’s with me?!

Oh, right. Me!

Deep Questions

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I have heard (but cannot find the study, so take it with a grain of salt) young believers attending non-Christian schools can cause them to question, and maybe lose their faith. I suppose, then, attending a Christian college would only serve to strengthen that faith. But my college experience seemed to bring up more questions for me about faith. Not my own, necessarily, but faith in general, and about what we believe. Such as, “What if the freedoms we enjoy as Americans, to worship as we feel led, to speak of our religious beliefs (and to be tolerant of others’), what if these freedoms have only served to water down the message of the gospel of Jesus?”

“And what about this ‘pocket Jesus’ trend, the ‘Jesus genie-in-a-bottle’ mentality. ‘(Poof!) What d’ya need? (Poof!) What d’ya need? (Poof!) What d’ya need?’ (Not so much a Disney fan as a fan of the late Robin Williams.)

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The idea that He is only here to grant our wishes only serves to emphasize the toddler-esque, egocentricity of humans. Not to say He doesn’t provide what we NEED. The 23rd Psalm is a great picture of this: “The Lord is my shepherd…”  But let’s get a little perspective here, people. It’s not all Mary’s little lamb with snow white fleece. No! Sheep are dumb, so dumb, and completely helpless. They cannot defend themselves. And sheep are GROSS! They certainly cannot clean themselves. Stinky, muddy, stuff stuck to the wool.

dirty sheep

Dude, what’s that? What do you have stuck in your wool?”

“I don’t know, but the shepherd will take care of this, he knows what we need.”

I find it incredibly humbling to think of myself as a stinky, helpless sheep, needing the shepherd for everything! Particularly humbling to think of a shepherd snipping certain little (ahem) nuggets off your fluffy behind.

Admittedly, these deep questions didn’t start with college. One particular question I remember from childhood. I wondered if we would have to answer on judgment day for driving. (I still wonder). This was before texting, y’all! The country roads out to Grandma’s house often had something on the road. A skunk, a raccoon, a deer L.

What were we doing? We were charged with taking care of the earth. But in our hurry to get here and there and everywhere, we were taking out innocent animals! Are we going to get in trouble for this?

Imagine this child growing up and (gasp!) hitting a dog. Sure it was running down the middle of my lane, in the dark. I tried to miss it (luckily no one was coming the opposite direction or this may never have been written). With this question still in my mind, I was devastated.  I commanded it, in the name of Jesus, to stand up and walk. I am not kidding. No zombie dog jokes here, people. But sometimes our prayers are not answered.

Even with some of these questions, my faith stayed pretty much the same, simple and straightforward. It was like having a little puzzle. Everything fits together so neatly and it looks exactly like the picture on the box.

Ane them, about a year and a half ago I met someone. A wonderful scholar, an energetic teacher and a dear friend. I love teachers like her. Someone so passionate and excited about the subject, it’s contagious. You cannot help but soak up some of that knowledge.

And do you know what he did? She gave me more puzzle pieces. A lot of pieces.  And no picture on the box. My little puzzle is only part of the whole. There is more.

puzzle

Good thing I LOVE puzzles.

And this has led me to some new questions.

“Who was Jesus in the conversation of his time? To Israel? To the Gentiles?”

“How can one fundamentally believe the Bible unless one understands the context(s) in which it was written?”

“How do we reconcile the crucifixion in a religion which believes human sacrifice is unacceptable?”

“What is death and where do we go/what happens?”

And this one, last night, in conversation with my husband: “Do angels have wings? And what about halos? I don’t remember anything in the Bible about halos.

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(But give me a tiara and I will rock that!)

Fortunately, I am not the only one trying to put together this puzzle. I have a few friends gathered around this table with me, trying pieces this way and that.

And as we pray for guidance in this endeavor, we also give thanks for our freedoms, freedom to gather, freedom to study and dig deep in to the word of God, freedom to have these conversations.